“Pitch” was such a foreign term for me as a young author, that when the first agent asked for my novel’s pitch at a conference, I blinked and shrugged. I was seventeen at the time so I suppose my reaction was understandable.
The agent then had to explain to me what a pitch was. How it is an attempt to make the main concept of your novel understandable and appealing in the space of one or two sentences.
I learned later that they could be longer than that, but the best pitches are simple. They are not just two long sentences with lots of complicated ideas. Ideally they are simple, concise, and intriguing.
So for example the pitch for the movie The Matrix could be any of the following sentences:
If Neo swallows the Red Pill the fate of his captured world will be in his hands.
The whole world is captured, but intrepid rebels are trying to free it.
What you see is not real.
Just kiss Trinity.
Now some of those pitches are clearly better than others, some would only work if you had seen the movie, some might intrigue you enough to see the movie.
My first attempt at a pitch was a complete failure, but I have since successfully pitched an agent a novel, through the following methods.
Write a Lot of Pitches
This seems obvious, but it isn’t necessarily. You should start writing pitches as often as possible if you are interested in following the path of publishing that involves agents. Even traditional publishers often require pitches, so if you are submitting to publishers directly it’s not a bad thing to practice.
When you watch a movie, write a couple of pitches for it afterwards. Also sit down with your own novel and just write pitches for 15 minutes. Don’t look at these pitches right away. Give it a few days then review them. Once you have done this a few times you should have three or four pitches that you like.
Play with Length
Try writing longer pitches occasionally and then think of ways that you can trim them down to size.
Play with Focus
A novel has a lot of different things going on at the same time. There can be many themes and plots. Don’t try to cover all of it in the pitch. Instead try focusing on just one theme, plot, or character.
This sounds like a cheap trick but almost every agent I have ever met wants to compare your book to already successful books. For example, 50 Shades of Grey is the erotic version of Twilight, but without Vampires. Agents want to know what your book is like, so saying something like “The Matrix with aliens, not robots” might intrigue someone.
Take the few pitches you really like and then show them to people – friends and family members that you trust. Some should have read the novel already, others should not have. Their feedback will be valuable as you develop your ability to write a good pitch.